President Benigno Aquino 3rd has yet to sign a measure lowering the age of criminal liability to 12 years old, but another bill has been filed in Congress that brings down the age of criminal liability to nine years old.
House Bill 922, or An Act Amending the Juvenile Justice Act, was filed by Representatives Joselito Atienza, Irwin Tieng and Mariano Michael Velarde of Buhay, which topped the party-list race in the May elections.
Under HB 922, which was filed on July 2, a child between nine and 15 years old who acted with discernment in committing a crime will be held criminally liable.
Those aged 9 to 14 will only escape criminal liability if they didn’t act with discernment it committing the crime.
The lawmakers said that since the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, “crimes involving minors have been tremendously increasing.”
“Recent reports show that numerous syndicates are taking advantage of the exempting circumstances to use minors in perpetrating crimes. Furthermore, the massive influence of modern communication has brought minors immense awareness of their surroundings, making them more mature,” they added.
In the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on House Bill 6052 and Senate Bill 3324 amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, child offenders aged 12 to 15 who acted with discernment during the commission of the crime will have their sentence suspended.
The measure defines a child offender who acted with discernment as someone who committed murder, parricide, homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, drug trafficking and other offenses punishable by more than 12 years.
On top of the suspended sentence, child offenders aged 12 to 15 who acted with discernment will also be sent to either a repository institution, the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or any duly licensed agency.
If the offender violates the conditions of the repository institutions mentioned, he or she will be returned to the committing court for the imposition of the penalty upon reaching 18 years of age.
On top of lowering the age of criminal liability, Buhay’ proposal provides that a child taken into custody but has been ascertained to be less than nine years old should be immediately released to the parents, guardian, or the nearest relative by the concerned
If parents, guardians or nearest relatives are not found or refuse to take custody of the offender, the child is to be released to a duly registered nongovernment or religious organization, a barangay official or a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, a local social worker or the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
If the child offender has been abandoned, neglected or abused by the parents or in a situation that the parents failed to comply with the prevention program, the proper petition for involuntary commitment will be filed by the DSWD or the Local Social Welfare and Development Office.
LLANESCA T. PANTI